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THE ART OF THE DOCUMENTARY

I am a lover of documentaries. I don’t even particularly care what the subject is if the documentary is good. A documentary filmmaker
should be able to make any subject interesting and compelling.

There are all kinds of documentaries. Some are like films, feature length and shown in theaters or on PBS or HBO. Some are series made for television, once again usually on PBS or HBO. And some are TV show length and part of on ongoing series like Modern Marvels on the History Channel or Cold Case Files on Discovery Channel.

The art of putting knowledge in someone’s mind through a visual medium is an interesting one. You have to keep the information flowing and keep it entertaining at the same time. Not an easy task in today’s instant gratification society.

I’m going to go through some of my favorite documentaries in the hope you will seek them out and watch them. I consider these to be some of the best examples of the medium that exist. They cover a wide variety of subjects and points of view.

I think my favorite documentary is Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. It was a 10 part series that ran on Showtime and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. It covers American history for pretty much the entire 20th Century and covers everything that most other documentaries leave out. The little details that might shade how we view not only ourselves but the rest of the world. After watching this series you might think differently about the history of the world and exactly who is responsible for what.

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Another favorite of mine is Ken Burn’s Civil War. A 14 hour series that aired on PBS and is now available on DVD, and coming soon on Blu-ray, it covers the entirety of the Civil War from its cause to it’s conclusion. Burns ingeniously follows individual characters on and off throughout the series making every battle and happening a personal one and pulling you in on an emotional level. It is truly a masterpiece.

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Inside Job was a theatrically released documentary on the 2007-2008 world-wide financial crisis available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Narrated by Matt Damon it goes through the collapse from cause to consequences and is incredibly fascinating. This documentary sticks out for another reason. Some of the causes of the financial collapse are insanely complicated Wall Street products and the film is able to convey these things in such a way that almost anyone can finally understand just what those guys were doing and why it ended so badly. It’s not easy to explain something so complicated in a friendy way. This film finds a way and I give it kudos for doing so.

If you are a lover of animals or nature then there is no better film going experience then BBC’s Planet Earth. A 10 part series that aired in the U.S. on PBS and is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It took five years to make and covers the subject of nature and animals for the entire planet. The first episode is a general program on the whole Earth and then each episode after that covers a specific geographic type, like mountains, deserts, forests, etc. Some of the footage they captured is beyond imagination. Using drones, helicopters, camera lenses that could see a mile and sitting in a cave for 6 months so they could get one shot of a Snow Leopard are just some of the lengths they went to in making this incredible series. A must see for everyone.

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There are documentaries for everyone, whether you are looking for knowledge on a specific subject or just entertainment on something lighter, there is a documentary for you out there.

 

 

 

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